Learning to Trust

Exodus  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings
Sermon Tone Analysis
View more →
Exodus 15:22-17:7; Luke 2:6-7
We are in the season of Advent, which means "coming" in Latin. It's the four weeks leading up to Christmas day designed to prepare our hearts, minds and souls for the birth of Jesus.
Spoiler Alert: Jesus has already been born! So why do we celebrate Advent?
When we take time to remember the birth of Jesus and the way the people of God had been waiting and waiting and waiting for centuries for the birth of their savior, we come to a great appreciation and realization that we are also living in a time, a period of waiting.
Not for Jesus to come the first time, but to return!
And as we remember the birth of Jesus, we are continuing our study through the book of Exodus, and we're looking at the way God has always worked with his people. We're comparing how God worked with Israel, how he worked with Mary and Joseph…and we're applying all of it to how God works with you and I today.
In our passage today, we are reading about what happened after the Israelites crossed the sea—remember the God split the sea and they walked through to freedom on dry land, and all of Pharaoh's army was drowned. They are free! Their pursuer, their slave driver is gone. They are free and they are in the wilderness.
Let me introduce you to a concept called Liminal Space. Liminality is defined as a threshold, a space between, neither inside or outside the building; a time between what was and what's next.
Sociologically speaking, a liminal space is a transitional space where a person lacks social status and is reduced to dependence on others. Liminal spaces come in all sorts of transitional packages:
Think about a wedding ceremony, as the bride and groom are being set apart for one another, they are neither married or unmarried—they are wearing new symbolic clothes, using other symbols of their life together, lighting a candle, exchanging rings, vows, a kiss—and those gathered witness their change of status, and they are re-introduced as husband and wife with a new identity.
An airport is a liminal space. It's not the destination, its a space you go through on the way to your destination.
Pregnancy is a nine month liminal space—you’re a mom, there’s a baby on board, and you're not quite a mom, you haven't nursed or bathed or changed a diaper, or pushed a stroller, or disciplined or taught ABC's yet. BTW, that's one of the things that makes a miscarriage so painful…entering a liminal space and not coming through to the other side).
Colleges intentionally create liminal spaces…new place to live, new routines, new friends. Graduation is a liminal experience…
Immigrants or refugees are subject to long stretches of liminality—always feeling like an outsider, unable to put down roots or feel secure.
During the lockdowns of Covid, we all lived in a liminal space…how long is this going to last? You get the idea!
Here's something to pay attention to, very few of us enjoy liminality. We look for order and belonging and predictability. Liminal spaces are generally uncomfortable and awkward, it can feel completely disorienting.
In our passage today, Israel has entered into this kind of space—the wilderness. It brings up all sorts of questions: Are we safe? Where do we find food and water, Who the heck is in charge? Where are we even going?
God has lessons to teach us that can only be learned in liminal space—the wilderness is God's workshop for building our character.
Let's jump into the story. We are in Exodus 15:22
Pray and read the passage…
Exodus 15:22–17:7 (NIV)
22 Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) 24 So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?”
25 Then Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became fit to drink. There the LORD issued a ruling and instruction for them and put them to the test. 26 He said, “If you listen carefully to the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you.”
27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.
Learning to trust in God's provision
They've traveled for three days, in the desert wilderness, and have found no water.
What's the thirstiest you've ever been? This brings to mind an old song, about being in a desert on a horse…any time along the way I think he could've named the horse!
Sometimes we give the Israelites a bad rap…how could they be such complainers after only three days? It wasn't that long ago that there were amazing plagues which didn't affect them, there's the whole crossing of the sea and the destruction of the Egyptian army…
…but it doesn’t take very long when your throat is completely parched and dry, that you are only thinking about one thing. Right‽
Listen, when things are going well, we underestimate how disorienting transitional periods—liminal spaces—really are, and we overestimate how stable/secure we really are.
We all have friends who are in spaces like this right now…our response needs to be full of compassion
And many of us are in these kinds of spaces right now…I think God wants to meet you right here, right now
Remember the reason for their freedom…God is making his name, his character known to the entire world through Israel.
Our lives, you’re and mine, are much less about our comfort, our ease of life
remember this is God’s workshop…He’s establishing Israel as a people who will live completely differently than their surrounding culture.
as followers of the resurrected Christ, we are to live a completely different way of life, empowered by the very presence of God, bearing the name of God in our world…
You are going to become my people who bear my name and show the entire world what I'm like. And the first step is learning to trust me in the wilderness.
Trust is the thing that was originally broken in Genesis 3. A lack of trusting God led to our first human parents disobedience—sin.
The essence if sin is that we don't trust God to provide what we need when we need it. Originally it was the knowledge of right and wrong, good and evil.
What is God's withholding something good from me? I want to determine what's good and what's harmful on my own. I don't need/want his input in my life.
So…How are you experiencing disorientation?
Perhaps you’re currently disoriented…God will meet you.
We all have friends who are disoriented…
Their forgetfulness and ingratitude are met with God's gracious provision, and then they are immediately invited into obedience.
This is a pattern we are going to see over and over again.
And notice that in God's provision, he invites them into a relationship of obedience: if you listen, if you do, if you pay attention, if you keep the commands—then you will not experience what Egypt experienced.
Their forgetfulness and ingratitude and rebellion are met with God's gracious provision, and with an invitation into a completely different way of life connected to the creator of all.
One of the things I've loved about learning to follow the resurrected Christ, is how when I turn to him, he welcomes me with open arms. It doesn't mean that there is not real consequences to my rebellion. But I've experienced God meeting me, and graciously providing for me the moment I turn towards him.
BTW, turning away from rebellion and towards God is the definition of repentance.
Let's read part of the next section:
Exodus 16:1–5 (NIV) 1 The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. 2 In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. 3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” 4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. 5 On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”
Learning to trust in God's continued, daily provision
Not they's been out of Egypt for a bit—two and a half months—and have run out of the food they brought with them I'd expect.
And as they look in the rearview mirror, they're remembering more meat than they could consume—the Egyptian food was glorious!!
And presently, it just seems like God just wants to slowly kill us!
Exodus 16:10–15 (NIV) 10 While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the LORD appearing in the cloud. 11 The LORD said to Moses, 12 “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.’ ” 13 That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat.
I love the bible. The Hebrew word which translates the phrase "What is it?" …is Manna
The instructions from God are to only gather enough of the manna for a day, and each day you'll be able to gather more for the next day. Don't try to save it up or it'll smell and be filled with maggots.
They are learning a daily trust, a moment by moment trust in God for their daily provision.
That might remind some of you of the prayer Jesus taught his disciples, "…give us our daily bread."
Those who didn't follow God's instructions ended up with smelly maggots, as promised. God is a keeper of his word.
In our longing for security, our longing to leave the wilderness, our longing to leave the uncomfortable liminal, transitional spaces, in our longing to leave God's workshop where he's building our character… we tend to cling to really good things (like the manna God himself provided), rather than clinging to God who is our provider.
What good gifts do I cling to for security?
Now, I don't think God is saying that savings accounts and retirement plans are bad. But you and I know when our trust has shifted from God to the savings account.
We may rationalize it. We may defend it endlessly. But we know.
We know because our generosity has dried up. We know because our tank feels empty most of the time. We know it because our tempers are short and our patience is lacking and everything and everyone is to dang annoying. Am I right‽
What if it's true? What if everything you need is just as Jesus said…
Matthew 6:28–33 (NIV) 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
I think Jesus saw this attitude in his parents, in Mary and Joseph…but I'm getting ahead of myself a bit!
There's a bit more to learn from this manna story…
Exodus 17:21–31 (NIV) 21 Each morning everyone gathered as much as they needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away. 22 On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much—two omers for each person—and the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses. 23 He said to them, “This is what the LORD commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of sabbath rest, a holy sabbath to the LORD. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.’ ” 24 So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it. 25 “Eat it today,” Moses said, “because today is a sabbath to the LORD. You will not find any of it on the ground today. 26 Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.” 27 Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none. 28 Then the LORD said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions? 29 Bear in mind that the LORD has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where they are on the seventh day; no one is to go out.” 30 So the people rested on the seventh day. 31 The people of Israel called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey.
Leaning to trust in rhythms of work and rest
Not only is God teaching them to trust in his daily provision, he's teaching them a completely different rhythm of work and rest. They'd never had a day off before.
God is teaching his people that to bear his name, to represent him well, they need rhythms of work and rest.
Work is good. We see work introduced in scripture in Genesis…
Genesis 2:15 (NIV) 15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
In fact the same Hebrew word translated as "work" is, in other places translated as "worship."
They've got to engage, to gather the manna and store it and prepare it and bake it—they've got a part to play in their own sustenance. For six days they are participating with what God is doing in their world… but in the seventh day…rest.
We are going to talk much more about this as we get into the commandments God give his people at Sinai…but this is the beginning. The beginning of the commands that God gives his people, one of the very first things he teaches them to do is to rest, to sabbath to the Lord. Yahweh is inviting his people to enter into his rest.
This should kinda blow our minds. It is so completely counter-cultural to our world.
Sabbath is a reminder that we are not God. We are not in charge, we are not in control. Sabbath is a reminder that we can never do enough and that our work is always unfinished. Sabbath is a day that moves us from production to presence. Sabbath isn't a reward for hard work, it's a gracious gift from God to rearrange our life and priorities around Yahweh.
Listen, I want to encourage you to begin to arrange your week towards practicing sabbath. As God's people in the Twin Ports community, this is one of the way we bear God's name.
We need to be weaned from our tendencies to take control. Sabbath "takes our hands off our world" in ways that no other activity can. And its not just a day off…
Sabbath is more about engagement without obstacles than about disengagement without responsibilities.
Sabbath points us to the deeper rest we need to find in Christ. It's not a box we check, its a way to live differently.
The economy may be our most consistent, common God in America—most of the western world. We think that if we have the right trade policies and do the right things to stimulate the stock market, we can come to trust the economy. It seems to be in human hands, which makes it easier to trust in.
But rest and purposefully chosen inactivity are meant to be an alternate way of life built on trust in God.
I like how Walter Bruegermann talks about it: Sabbath is a conscientious objection to these gods. It's saying to the stock market, "No, I refuse to give in to restlessness and anxiety as a slave to Pharaoh. I'm not going to submit to the gods that demand endless work and production. I'm not going to give in to a life based on commodity." No, in keeping the sabbath we have an invitation for a restful, relational confidence in God.
I this passage there's this really amazing contrast between serving Yahweh and serving Pharaoh.
There's a Hebrew phrase that Pharaoh used a couple of times…
Exodus 5:13 (NIV) 13 The slave drivers kept pressing them, saying, “Complete the work required of you for each day, just as when you had straw.”
Exodus 5:19 (NIV) 19 The Israelite overseers realized they were in trouble when they were told, “You are not to reduce the number of bricks required of you for each day.”
(dabar yom b’yomo)
And its the exact same phrase God uses here in…
Exodus 16:4 (NIV) 4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day.
Pharaoh's thing for each day is "do this work for me each day" be the workers behind my funereally cult—prop up my divinity.
Yahweh's thing for each day is what I'm graciously giving/providing for you.
You still have to go get it. You still have to cook it, prepare it. You have to do the work 6 days each week. You are involved. But there's a new rhythm, and a gracious new lord you serve.
We need a weekly rhythm of reorienting our worship
The Sabbath is the ritual culmination of each week in celebration of God’s Love, enduring purposes, and sovereignty over our lives and our time. It is a day to feast in recognition of eternity-in-time (Heschel), and to celebrate the New Creation Christ brings and is bringing.
In the wilderness, we're learning new rhythms of work and rest!
Leaning to trust in God's presence
Exodus 17:1–7 (NIV) 1 The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD to the test?” 3 But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?” 4 Then Moses cried out to the LORD, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.” 5 The LORD answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”
Look at that last line, “Is the LORD among us or not?”
Let me cut right to the chase… This is one of the biggest, life-long questions that the people of God ask… Is God here?
When we are desperate and our backs are up against our needs, we finally cry out, “…is God here with us or not?”
And the answer is unequivocally, yes! If you’ve been around a bit, you’ve probably heard a prayer here that goes like this…come Holy Spirit.
When we pray that we are inviting God to personally draw close.
The renowned New Testament biblical scholar, Gordon Fee, wrote: (Paul, The Spirit, And The People of God, p. 22ff).
“For Paul, the Spirit is not merely an impersonal force or influence or power. The Spirit is none other than the fulfillment of the promise that God himself would once again be present with his people.”
“The Holy Spirit in Paul’s writings was always thought of in terms of the personal presence of God. The Spirit is God’s way of being present. Whatever else the Holy Spirit was for the Apostle Paul, he was always an experienced reality.”
When we pray we are asking God to allow us to experience his personal presence.
Jesus himself promised this would be the case…
John 14:25 (NIV) 25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
Jesus makes the same promise in chapter 15, and again a couple of times in chapter 16
Mary and Joseph were invited into a transitional space, becoming parents of the long-awaited Messiah, the Christ. And in that liminal space, they trusted God!
Luke 1:38 (NIV) 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Matthew 1:24 (NIV) 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.
And God provided what then needed…a stable to give birth in…
Luke 2:6–7 (NIV) 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
Ministry time:
I don’t know what liminal space, what uncomfortable or transitional space you’re in… I don’t know how you might be struggling to trust God for consistent daily provision, or how he might be inviting you into healthy rhythms of work and rest, or how you’ve been crying out for his presence…but I know he’s available. I know he’s trustworthy. I know he’s here right now…
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more